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#7 Supercharge your Field Camera with CHDK

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras have loads of features that make it easier to take great photographs like the ability to take RAW images, use intervalometers, or take bracketed shots. The price and size of DSLRs, however, make them somewhat impractable for every field crew to carry one on every project. Instead, companies often send crews out with cheap and easily replaceable point and shoot cameras. Point and shoot cameras with some DLSR features are available, but are more expensive. Few companies are probably willing to pony up for an expensive point and shoot when the dust, weather, and grimy/slippery fingers combo on survey and excavation projects tends to destroy a lot of field cameras. I usually discover this when I go to turn on the camera and find that the shutter refuses to open and the lens extends at a 30 degree angle.


Picture of a broken point and shoot camera.
Figure 1. A broken lens, a typical kind of field damage. Picture from flickr user tanakawho.

Do you ever wish that you could supercharge your field camera with some of these advanced features? It turns out that if your camera is a Canon, you can. Let me introduce you to the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK). CHDK is a custom firmware (software that runs embedded on a device, think of the software in a car GPS or in a WiFi router) that can unlock these kinds of advanced features, as well as give you a way to program your camera using scripts to add your own custom features.

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